Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Step 4 - Develop Your Service Product

This morning Veronique Druesne shared a sobering article about the demise of psychotherapists in America - it is a must read for all Alexander Technique teachers. The article highlights the problem we face in to-day’s fast food, sound byte information era. The words [in brackets] are my replacements of the original text…

If we give modern consumers the efficiency and convenience they want, we also have to silence our nagging sense that we may be pandering to our [pupils] rather than helping them. Will we do [lessons] in 140 characters or less, or will we stick to our beliefs but get a second job to put food on the table? It’s one thing to be more than a blank slate and even to focus on finding solutions, but will we throw away so many doctrines of our training that we cease being [teachers] entirely? The more we continue in this direction of fast-food [lessons] — something that feels good but isn’t as good for you; something palatable without a lot of substance — the more tempted many of us will be to indulge.

Anecdotal evidence that I have heard suggests that over the last decade, Alexander Technique teachers have been facing an increasing struggle to find pupils, while many training schools have been shrinking or closing. My mission involves lifting our work into mainstream consciousness: I have a deep conviction that our work is needed, even if the market seems to be walking away from us.

However, what is true is that consumers decide the market, not you. People buy what they want to buy, and if they don’t think you have it, they vote with their feet. It’s your job to convince them that you can help them with what they want to be helped with. It’s not hard to come to that - the hard part is matching what you have to what they want. That is all about the service product you offer…

We are a little like the technology giant Apple - we offer people something that they didn’t know they needed until they got it. We are selling something that defies description or comparison. Our service looks and sounds like so many other things, but once you experience it, you realize that nothing comes close to be being the same experience. Not Yoga, not Pilates, not Psychotherapy, not Acupuncture, not Massage, not Physiotherapy - nothing. It isn’t any of those things, yet people still clutch in space for a reference point. We must give it to them.

So how do you reference your work for consumers? In relation to their problems. You stop talking about you and what you do - because quite honestly it sounds bland and boring - and instead focus on how you can help them. Which brings us back to the quote above - people want fast results. In the Alexander community there’s a party line which says something like: “This takes time.” While I agree this is true, it is also true that Alexander Technique is very quick. Very.

Let me tell how that works in Japan…

In Japan we advertise “Katakori Sayonara.” Kata = shoulder (hate the word) and kori = tension. Literally it means “Shoulder-tension goodbye.” Our website headline says something like: “Are You Sick & Tired of Katakori? Say Goodbye to Neck and Shoulder Pain.” Under the headline are several named member testimonials detailing the results they experienced in our studio. Nothing about Alexander Technique. This is one of our niches - Katakori is a HUGE problem in Japan. And it’s a massive market.

When people finally arrive at our studio, I first ask: “How many people have katakori right now?” Usually most hands go up. Then I say: “How many of you think you can get rid of it right now, right here?” This is met with disbelief - I make a comedy out of it to relax them - but then I promise to help them do just that. I tell them: “Tonight you are going to experience your katakori going away, just like we promised.”

And you know what? I can. Why? Because Alexander Technique works! Because Alexander Technique is quick. Incredibly, amazingly, astonishingly quick! In just one session, a person who has been suffering from chronic back pain for 10 years, without letup, can experience total relief. I have watched people cry in amazement and joy as the pain they believed was with them for life just dissolves away.

This gets their attention. It satisfies their modern urge for fast, instant results: I just delivered those results. Inevitably, someone will ask: “But I don’t how that happened. How can I do that for myself?” That gives me the perfect opening I need: “Well, of course you don’t know! That’s why you study at BodyChance!” And that ushers in the conversation of longer term study…

In BodyChance we call it the “switch” - the moment when the conversation about instant gratification “switches” to longer term learning. They are convinced emotionally, now they need convincing logically - supplying reasons why it is necessary to sign up for several months, even a year. It’s still tough going: our conversion rate to membership still fluctuates between 2 to 4 people out of every 20 (15~20%) who visit the studio. Those 1 or 2 people stay on average 5 months, and 14% of them will convert to the ProCourse and go on to become teachers. Financially, those figures work.

However, conversion isn’t the only challenge. Retention is another major challenge. Even of those 1 or 2 people that decide to join, in the first 3 months we discovered that more than 50% of them leave. That was a terrible result. Why? Again, our service product. Our version of Alexander Technique did not continue matching their needs. This is so huge, so deep - I could write several books about it. If you dig into it, it turns on the language you use, the kind of rapport you create, how well you listen and attend to their needs: and obviously, how effective you are at solving the problems they want solved. This loops back into how we design the education of BodyChance teachers. Teachers need to be doing the same with their own self-education. How are you developing your practise?

The Alexander Technique service you deliver is critical to convincing your neophytes to study with you, and it is critical for their continued commitment in this era of growing fickleness and fast results. Once you have your motivation, your niche and your location, you then need to have specific skills that marry Alexander's discoveries into the everyday concerns and thinking of the people you teach. Just doing chair and table work alone won’t cut it any more. Fail to do that, and all the marketing in the world won’t sustain your career.

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